My 5 days in Berlin were filled with beautiful architecture, striking street art, salty pretzels and Christmas cheer. I fell in love with this quirky city and all its perfect imperfections.
This is part 2 of my account of Berlin, and its taken almost a month to get it written and uploaded, but it’s here! (If you haven’t read the first part you can find it here.)
It took me until day 3 to actually explore the historic centre of Berlin, and it blew my mind. After seeing some edgy, lived in parts of the city, it was quite a contrast to come to the touristy centre and see some of the main sights. Even though this was the most touristy part, I still didn’t feel it was overwhelmed with tourists, which I liked very much.
I started where I left off the previous day with the Museum Island. It’s a bizarre place that is home to an abundance of classic architecture holding the city’s most sacred collections, combined with the grandeur of the emerald domed cathedral and with the modern city lingering beyond the water in the background. It’s the perfect place for a walk and to start exploring the centre.
I then took a short walk down the road leading to the Brandenburg Gate (in search of a pretzel) and wound up wandering through Bebelplatz (my favourite square) and then towards Gendarmenmarkt, where I had visited the amazing Christmas market previously. This area is bewildering with winding streets, amazing buildings and a feeling of space and colour.
In need of restbite from the cold, I followed my senses and found myself a shopping mall to relax in. I instead found myself in a city of shopping centres, all leading off and into one another, and somehow got all the way to Potsdamer Platz through the maze of shops, Christmas decorations and plush sofas made for me and my kindle. Before jumping on Potsdamer, I decided to ‘check out’ Checkpoint Charlie. This is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen but I definitely recommend it.
Following the route of the Berlin Wall I found myself again in Potsdamer Platz, one of the coolest areas I’ve ever been to. After studying it in my Architectural History class, I was fascinated with the area and couldn’t wait to have a wander around the modern buildings and central ‘square’. With the Christmas markets overflowing, it was a magical place and yet again I took further rest (and a further pretzel) in the shopping centre, which may trump them all with lights and baubles galore.
All of this and it was only 3pm?! Yes, the centre is compact and easy to navigate in little time. I met up with my friend (and host) and headed to the Reichstag Building, which is a total must for anyone visiting Berlin. It’s the most wonderful building with a fascinating history and great views across the city. You can also get a free audio tour which tells you about the view and specific buildings. Such a great thing to do! You have to book online in advance as it gets booked up and you also need to go through security checks on arrival as it’s a government building – well worth it! Here is the website if you’re interested in going – German Bundestag.
I spent the evening in yet another Christmas Market having soothing spiced wine and buying Christmas treats for friends and family. What a full day in beautiful Berlin. My favourite thing about it was the slow pace I allowed myself to go at and take in all the sights.
Here’s my route around the Historic Mitte:
Street art courtyard, postcard perfect streets, carol concert, memorial and markets
My last day in Berlin was chilled and perfect. I saw a couple of sights that I’d missed on the previous few days, as well as exploring a knew area that I really liked.
I began in the same location as the last day, at the cathedral on Museum Island, but headed north, away from the centre, in search of a street art hub I’d read about. I found it very easily and it did not disappoint. I stayed here for a while admiring the colours and images dressing all of the walls and enjoyed the emptiness of this underrated gem. It’s called Haus Schwarzenberg – must see!
The area around this discrete little courtyard is really nice with a number of public squares, gardens and shops. I should’ve spent more time around here, but I did wander down a few lovely streets.
I ended up back at Museum Island (seemingly the centre of Berlin for me as this was the umpteenth time I’d been here). I decided to go into the cathedral because, honestly, I can’t resist a beautiful church. It was stunning. I also got really lucky because the choir was rehearsing so I got to watch and hear some beautiful German renditions of my favourite Christmas songs. You can also walk up to the viewing deck at the top which has great views – if you can handle the steps.
For the rest of the day I walked around familiar streets, and explored the last place on my list; the memorial to the murdered Jews. Another thing I had studied so was interested in. The memorial itself was pretty intense to be in, but was made less so by disrespectful tourists (and potentially locals) who were running around, sitting on the memorial and being loud. The museum underneath was an eye opener and I’m glad I did it.
Just before completely crashing at my hostel, I popped into the market I found around the corner from the hostel. It’s such a vibrant atmosphere filled with lovely people and glorious food. Would recommend if you’re staying in the area! It’s called Arminiusmarkthalle.
That just about rounds up my visit to Berlin. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and it made me very eager to go back to Germany and explore more of the vast country. I hope you’ve enjoyed this (very long) letter and that it would prove useful if you find yourself in the capital!
PS. Letters may be few and far between from now until May because I am now in my final sprint to finish my degree. I’ll post when and if I can. xoxo